tv [untitled] May 18, 2012 5:30am-6:00am EDT
>> yeah. >> we're going back now to mr. murdoch and the -- it starts, the seam of implied deals. the telephone call is about three telephone calls just before the iraq war in march of 2003. >> yeah. >> there's something i think you can be very clear what it's about, save for the fact that it probably occurred or did occur, but the substance of the calls you can't assist us with; is that fair? >> i can only give you evidence as far as what it relates to what i wrote in my diary. i don't remember the calls, but i did write on march 11, 2003 about one of the calls.
i don't remember the calls themselves, but i' know i talke to tony blair about one of them and i've written about them in my diary. >> it doesn't shed very much more light upon it. >> only it does appear that it were a call that tony blair had made. whether that helps you or not, i don't know. >> let's not use the phrase implied express deal. let's not use any of those words. let me just understand what's going on here. the government was more than just contemplating, heading for a wall.
it was obviously understandable if they wanted to discover what the reaction from those who were responsible for our media was going to be. and i could equally understand why a prime minister might think it of value to seek to get across in an unvarnished way, unmediated by other press what was really going on in his mind. >> uh-huh. >> to try and put the best case, which, of course, is presumably what he was thinking about, for the conclusions he had reached. but what i'm interested to know is where that leads. is it requesting support? is it neutral as to whether you
have support? is it -- i mean, what's going on here? do you understand my question? >> yeah. by this point, as you say, it was perfectly clear where this is leading. and equally it was perfectly clear that most of the media were opposed to what we were doing, and mr. murdoch's titles were in favor of what we were doing. i think it's also fair to say that the prime minister, he would have appreciated that support at that time because it was probably the most difficult decision he ever had to make. it was the most difficult period of the time that i was with him bar none, but as i say in my statement, i wouldn't want to put too much significance, given all else that he was dealing with at that time, when he was speaking to presidents and prime
ministers around the world the whole time, i wouldn't overstate the significance of a couple phone calls with rupert murdoch. in terms of what i think is going on here, as i say, i'm relying on what i've written in my diary. what i think is going on is i think rupert murdoch placed a call and tony blair has taken that call, and rupert murdoch wanted to have a chat just about what was going on. i said earlier that the only thing that makes rupert murdoch different than some of the other media owners is he's a news man. he's interested in what's going on in the world. so i think that's what was going on, but i can't help you beyond that because i don't remember the call. but certainly at that time it was he was in a very, very difficult position. and we were all, in terms of the decisions that were being taken and the policy that was being
pursued, it was hugely unpopular. we knew that. most of the rest of the media, either the papers on the left because they're opposed to the war, the bbc because of the dispute we got into with them, the right wing papers mostly because they hated tony blair by then, it was a pretty difficult media landscape. and whether rupert murdoch was just kind of signalling being the last one standing, i don't know. so all i can really give you is what i put in my diary on that day. but there were two -- according to the cabin offers, between 2002 and 2005, tony blair spoke to rupert murdoch six times on the telephone. two of those times were during this period, and i think it's a combination of rupert murdoch trying to figure out what's going on, and also probably just saying we're going to support
you on this. does that help? >> why would he need to do that? >> he wouldn't. he wouldn't. but i think it's -- again, i can't really help you beyond what i put in my statement. but i think he was -- it was the biggest issue anywhere in the world at that time. >> i understand that, but it's -- i suppose it goes back to the whole question of the perception of the reason why this intensely difficult time which you described in which we all remember simply from what we were watching and reading about. we weren't involved in these decisions. and i can understand he's talking to world leaders about
this if he no, ma'amphenomenall decision, that three times he should find it significantly important to chew the cud, talk to, listen to, the news. it's whether it's appropriate to draw any conclusion about the relationship because i suppose that's what he was thinking about. >> yeah. and i suspect if rupert murdoch -- i say in my statement in terms of when tony blair would have seen rupert murdoch, it was usually when rupert murdoch was in london for a board meeting. i suspect if he had been in london during that time, would he meet him for a cup of tea? he probably would. i said before he was a very significant player in the media landscape. but i don't think -- put it this way i was surprised more than
anything when they produced this record. you seemed to think there was so many. >> not so many, it's just the fact of them against so many competing demands of his time. he knew what the view of "the sun" was. he didn't have to talk to mr. murdoch, he could pick up a copy of "the times ". >> i think he could have picked up a copy of anything in the world. it is important to remember -- see, we're looking at this now, you're asking me to -- and people may think it's awful that i don't remember something i've written about, and i just don't. for me as well, there was so much going on at that time, but it doesn't strike me as that odd, not the least because by
then, i think it's fair to say tony blair had very few strong supporters in the media left. so whether one of these calls came from him, i have no idea. whether one was actually not placing the call, i don't know. >> there's a limit to how far we can go with it, and i recognize that. but i read into what you're saying to me, that i should not read too much into the fact that there were these calls notwithstanding the pressure on the prime minister's time and all the other problems he was facing. >> yeah, because even at times like this, he would have spoken to all sorts of people. and i think it's -- no, i wouldn't read too much into it, to be absolutely frank. and i know that one of your previous witnesses has said that without rupert murdoch's
support, we couldn't have done this,i inand this is complete nonsense. tony blair believed in what we were doing and the government supported what we had done and so did parparliament. and that was way, way more important than any newspaper sport. >> i think that's a convenient place to take a break for a short minute. >> all rise. >> i think you want to correct something you said in relation to the five pledges in the labor party manifesto? >> i thought it was one of the five pledges, but i checked. it's not. >> you're right. >> but it was announced before the article. >> okay. paragraph 53 of your statement, which is the back door point,
you say there tends to be a media presence in downing street most of the time, and there's no particular need or desire to advertise the meeting, makes sense to avoid the front door. >> i would accept that. yep. >> then you say slightly tongue in cheek, partly our thinking was that for the rest of the media, murdoch was uniquely neuralgic. >> it wasn't tongue in cheek. you start the whole flurry of, what's he doing there? i make the whole point when i left in 2003, i tended to go in the same door. it was just a way of avoiding the attention, i guess. but i take your point. >> do you think there is something about the fact that we -- the government now make the links with senior citizen
proprietors much clearer, that some get more access than others and that's not fair? >> i would hope that what comes out of all this is not just the greater openness and transparency you were talking about this morning with mr. mcdonnell, but also perhaps a greater distancing between the two sets of people. now, i think, as i said in my statement, i think there is a real public interest in politics and other walks of life having relationships with the media that allow them to debate and challenge and so forth, but i think if we could get to a situation where there wasn't this sense of relationships just getting mangled, the political, the commercial, i can see why you might think they're all just
one vote. >> well, it's a topic i would certainly welcome your view on, but we'll let mr. jay take his own course, and if it's not covered, we'll come back to it. >> so there's one further point about mr. steltzer i missed. it's a footnote on page 684 of one of your diaries. you described him as one of rupe u rt murdoch's economic guru. you were making a serious point there, weren't you, mr. campbell? >> i didn't write all of the footnotes. i think he was an economic adviser. guru. one of those words. but he was close to him. he was close to him. still is, i think. >> when mr. murdoch was not
around and someone was talking to mr. steltzer, was there a sense you were talking to mr. murdoch in some way? >> no, i wouldn't say that. i wouldn't say that. he wasn't his spokesman. no, i wouldn't put it like that. >> tell us about mrs. brooks. obviously we've seen recently -- you're saying in your statement you attended, i think, both her weddings -- >> no, i attended the reception for the first one and the wedding for the second. and on the first one, i was, as it were, independently friendly with her husband. >> would you describe it as a friendship or relationship borne out of circumstances? >> i think it's difficult but once you reach a certain level in politics -- again, in one of
these i have a discussion about this -- i think it's difficult to develop friendships with people from any walk of life where they might actually feel that they can get something from you. so i think i would -- we were friendly, we were very friendly, and i liked rebecca, but i think friendship overstates it. most of the friends that i have are journalists, people i used to work with when i was a journalist. but i liked her and obviously because of my job and their job, we spoke a lot. >> many people have observed, and some witnesses have said, that she's a consummate networker. is that something -- >> yeah. i think she would say that as part of her job. >> in the late 1990s, did you assess that her star, as it were, was clearly in the
ascendency and it was natural that mr. blair and others would become close to her? >> not particularly. i think she was obviously very bright. i had a sense very early on that rupert murdoch really liked her, and i think within the rupert murdoch setup, you know, there's that sense of who is he, as it were, bestowing his favor upon, and i think rebecca was a rising star. and i think we would have ensured that tony blair, as a statement, right across the piece, not just international, that over time he would see most of the key people. i think that's what we did. >> in paragraph 64, her statement, she referred to her being almost a constant presence in and around mr. blair's senior cabinet ministers and advisers. would you agree with that
assessment? >> on all of the papers, the prime minister and the government are probably the most covered people, including on the tabloids. so in a sense, what i would say is we were a constant part of her life, and indeed, part of everyone else's life. so i wouldn't overstate that. no, i think that does overstate it. >> having made contact with her, about how often a week was it? >> that i would speak with rebecca? >> yes. >> when she was editor. sometimes none, sometimes every day. it would depend on what was happening on the news agenda. average, probably once or twice. >> if she wanted personal access to either mr. blair or senior cabinet minister, did she tend to organize that through you or
not? >> the cabinet ministers i can't speak for, but in terms of tony blair, probably through me or angie hunter or sally morgan or one of the people around the prime minister. >> did she manipulate the increasing increasingly fracturous relationship between mr. murdoch and mr. blair? >> i don't think so, no. it was a very difficult part of my job, the fact that the press was writing about those relationship difficulties all the time, and i had to be out for the government, trying to explain what we were doing, the important things and so forth. so no, i don't think she did. i knew she spoke to gordon and the people who worked for him, and perhaps they said some things to her that they wouldn't have said to us. >> was she increasingly seen as having influence over mr. murdoch? >> i think my sense was the most
influential person was rupert murdoch. so was she an important person within the organization? yes. >> were other ministers afraid of her? >> if they were, they shouldn't have been. >> yes, but do you think they were? >> i didn't think so. i didn't think so. there were various -- one of the reasons why, even though it's fair to say i think i'm somewhat p and g at news international now, rebecca was always very, very straightforward to deal with. and there were a number of stories that i dealt with with her which were very difficult for individual ministers where robin cook was one, steve
steven byers. we had a sense we had a job to do but we could be straight with each other. >> were the feds ever searched by you? >> i would say we were one of the prime sources for every media organization in the country. >> so it wasn't a question of prioritizing "the sun," you feel, it was just part of your job? >> look, we made a lot of changes in 1997, the biggest of which was putting the briefings on the record. most of my contact with the media was on the record briefing. did we -- every single paper thought that we favored other papers. "the mirror" thought we favored "the sun," "the sun" thought we favored "the mirror." you couldn't win, really. >> in terms of "the mirror," i believe mr. morgan told us there
were 60 meetings he had with mr. blair when mr. blair was prime minister, and you were often present in those meetings. would that be right? >> it might be, but i think piers would also accept that some of those would be receptions and what would that work out to? six a year, is that a lot? piers was the editor of the one labor-supporting newspaper. there was an annual lunch that we had at the late party conference. but certainly i would be present at most of those meetings, probably. >> obviously they were on-site, save, of course, in relation to the iraq war which was hostile. was it a question, though, of enabling "the mirror" to put the best possible class on stories? >> this whole thing about spin, i think, is totally overdone. journalists aren't stupid, and the public aren't stupid, and most of the presence of the prime minister in people's lives
would be what they saw on television, and when they saw them in the news and the house of commons. so most of the discussions i would have had with piers -- certainly during the iraq war we had a fairly fundamental disagreement. in other situations he would, and was, often angry bought he thought he favored "the sun," and "the sun" thought we favored "the mirror." in terms of retro communications and strategy, it was up and down but a pretty good relationship. >> paragraph 46 of your statement, you deal with other contacts as well. interestingly, you recall that to tie the romantic knot, page
00821, he and his wife complained in the way express newspapers intruded on their privacy. >> i was going to say an irony lost by all but her and her husband. i'm sure this is an example of amnesia, but forgive me. i do mention that. paragraph 26, please. >> are you moving away from proprietors? are you moving to the more general? >> i'm not dealing with the proprietors now in particular. >> let me just ask a question, then. there is obviously much, much more contact, for understandable reasons for priorities and
single editors, with very senior government ministers and people such as yourself than there would be for other interest grou groups. is there a risk, do you think, that that access can indeed work the other way so that, therefore, there is a risk which has to be guarded against -- i'm not saying it can't be guarded against -- of their particular interests, and that could be commercial or personal, which i mean the paper, or it could be that which they are complaining achieves a greater prominence than would be achieved by somebody in a quite different situation who doesn't have the same sort of access. >> absolutely. i totally accept that.
>> is that a problem? >> yeah. i think it is a problem. i think it means the interests of one section of the national makeup does have greater access than others who probably should have just as good access to government. so i think that the fact of businesses owning media does give them a disproportionate access. i don't think that's the same thing as power, but i think it does give them disproportionate access. >> yes, but once you've got disproportionate access, the risk is that the influence is that much more potent. >> i agree with that. >> now, using your experience
both as a journalist and as somebody who has worked in government and the rather higher grade view you've been able to take of life since you ceased, how can that be fixed? >> i think openness is an important thing and transparency, so when mr. jay said they come through the back door, i think that's right. i think that -- i think i'm right in saying, for example, the american president's diary is published so that people can see what he's doing with his time. but i do think that it can only be fixed -- i say this when i addressed the point about the finished report in my statement -- i think it can only be fixed if both sides of this acknowledge the problem is not just the other side. there is a tendency for those of
us, if you like, on the political side to say, it's your fault, and there's even a stronger tendency on this side to say, it's all your fault. and i think unless we can get beyond that, we're not going to get anywhere. so openness and a greater explanation, i think, from -- i think the politicians have done a very, very bad job of standing up for themselves in terms of what their legitimate role is and what their legitimate functions are and how they have to engage with the media, because if they don't, they're going to get blown away. so there has to be a proper reccre recceni reckoning of each other's power and phone hacking above the law. >> i'm going to articulate it slight differently, or it might
be possible to articulate it slightly differently to say this. if the story is big enough, the rules don't count. >> anything to get a story. >> well, it's actually not quite -- >> but a lot of the phone hacking stuff wasn't about big stories at all. >> i agree with that, and i'm not actually talking about what might be criminal, i'm talking about a slightly different idea, and possibly by borrowing mr. morgan's phrase, i'm taking it out of context. let me start again and say this. we, the press, are not necessarily banned by the same rules that govern other
behavior. >> and an extension of that, going back to what we were talking about a moment earlier, the sense that they don't think anything will happen to them as a result of going beyond those boundaries, because the political class, the placolices we've seen and other parts of our national life don't treat them the same as other organizations and people. when you talk about fixing, that's what needs to be fixed. >> let me add one more element to it because i am going to be asking you about fixing, but the other element is whereas the press will look to hold politicians to account, they look to hold health boards, educational authorities, the judiciary into account with rare exceptions, nobody is holding what they are doing into account? >> correct.